Movies

Review: 'The Girl Who Played with Fire'

(Two stars)

All the hype around publishing sensation Stieg Larsson, late author of the "Millennium" trilogy, doesn't do the film version of "The Girl Who Played with Fire" any favors. Lacking the psychological intimacy afforded by the page, Daniel Alfredson's film won't inspire better than a shrug from audiences.

The first of two sequels to the all-around more compelling "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," this film picks up with Swedish punk lesbian super-hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) abroad but still keeping tabs on her arch-nemesis Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), the degenerate lawyer whom the law sees as her upstanding legal guardian. Meanwhile, Millennium magazine, under the auspices of crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (dishwater-dull Michael Nyqvist) prepares a bombshell story exposing a sex trafficking ring and its clientele.

In short order, three people have been murdered, and all three deaths are pinned on Lisbeth, whose fingerprints are found on the murder weapon. We know she's innocent, and so does Blomkvist, who bonded with her in the previous film. The key to solving the crime appears to lie with shadowy gangster Zala, a former Russian military intelligence agent who doesn't want to be found, in part because of a shocking connection to Lisbeth's past. Yes, this time, it's personal. (Then again, I'm pretty sure it was before and will be again.)

Shot back-to-back with third installment "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," "The Girl Who Played with Fire" was intended for Swedish television. The trimming of budget -- and, more importantly, time -- shows in this feature version.

Taking the reins from "Tattoo" director Niels Arden Oplev, Anderson proves unable to tap the story's emotional undercurrents, and the lackluster acting follows suit. Rapace continues to bring a quiet intensity to the fearsome, tough-as-nails, no-nonsense Salander. (Her signature move? A taser to the groin.) But the material's just not here to demonstrate much character outside of her determined actions (many of which, anti-dramatically, are keyboard taps on her laptop).

Visually, the film has the drab look of a 20-year-old BBC crime miniseries (exception: the rare occasion when something goes up in flames). As it is, the mystery plot is only borderline coherent and less convincing, but when the story steps outside of this comfort zone of understatement, matters just get strange. There's a hulking thug (Mikael Spreitz) with a rare genetic disorder that deadens him to pain -- he plays like a refugee from a Bond movie. And then there's the scene in which Lisbeth, taking a page from Batman, shows her theatrical sense for instilling fear by donning Kabuki-white face makeup with a red "scar" painted to bisect her face.

This sort of thing works better in emotional context, which is where "The Girl Who Played with Fire" is at its worst. It's also a requirement of the story that its heroes remain separate for nearly the entire running time (though Blomkvist cornily pledges, "I'm going to be there for her all the way"). The spark between the two is missed.

Rated R for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language. 2 hours, 9 minutes.

— Peter Canavese

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 7,205 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 14 comments | 2,395 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,307 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 840 views

Is racism also a local problem?
By Diana Diamond | 24 comments | 633 views

 

Register today!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More